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  • image M642

A miniature replica of the Melpomene of Miletus

Greek island marble

Height: 27cm

Museum number: M642

Vermeule catalogue number: Vermeule 371help-vermeule-catalogue-number

Not on display

Curatorial note

A female figure, clad in long chiton with short sleeves, standing with the weight firmly on the left foot which shows beneath the chiton, the right leg drawn back and bent so that the right foot touches the ground quite lightly. Over the long, heavy undergarment which hangs in vertical folds to the feet a himation is draped, from a position under the left arm, around the body and over the right breast in a heavy roll and around the back to a point where it is pinned on the left shoulder.

At least the sixth such statue, and (because of its small size) certainly one of the most curious variant replicas of a Muse-type of the later Hellenistic period of which the chief replica is the Melpomene from Miletus, in the room in the Istanbul Museum named after Philiskos to whom the six Muses and the lyre-bearing Apollo in the group are attributed, (Mendel, Catalogue, nos. 114-120, Melpomene is no.115; Neugebauer, Milet, 1, 9, p.104ff.).

The five main replicas, all of which vary somewhat in the precise details of the uncommon arrangement of the himation and the degree of elevation of the right arm, are collected and discussed by Achille Adriani, 'Tre Nuove Repliche della Melpomene di Mileto', in Bull. Com., LIX, 1932, p.179ff. Like all but the Miletus and Terme statues, the Soane miniature lacks any trace of the mask, although there is a break against the left hip where it and the arm joined the side. The chief difference in this figure is that the right arm is lower than in any of the others but the forearm probably bent back up to restore the general similarity of pose. Nothing of the neck remains, as can be seen, but like the Terme example the height of the right shoulder would seem to confirm the turn of the left. The 'heaviness' of the himation or, more correctly, mantle, the absence of small folds to a point where the back seems almost unfinished compares with the Oxford statue (Adriani, fig. 3) and contrasts with the other replicas, (as, for example Torlonia, pl.LXXIX. no.314). This must certainly be an early variant in the copies or even types, for the Soane statuette is of a quality far in excess of the Oxford statue and may well be contemporary with a Hellenistic First Century BC work rather than sculpture of the Greek Imperial period; (for the present evaluation of Philiskos as a late Hellenistic sculptor, see G. Battaglia in Bull. Com, LXII, 1934, p.15f. and bibliography; and for the group in Rome, etc., see G. Begatti, Bull. Com., LXIII, 1935, p.114f.).

That such small, decorative marble statues of Muses and related 'nymphs' or geographical personifications were part of the sculptor's repertory for domestic consumption (and for export) is brought out in G.S. Merker, 'The Hellenistic Sculpture of Rhodes' (Studies in Mediterranean Archaeology, XL), Göteborg, 1973, passim.

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